The Pedal File: A Cool Pedal for Consumption – Keeley’s Absolute Wurst Random Harmony Generator

Hello, pedal heads!  I’ve been busy lately and I’ve got to say, I missed you more this time than any other time we’ve been apart.  Every time I got a text, I thought it was you…  Let’s not do that again!  Let me make it up to you.  Your pal, The Pedal File, is here once again to check in and provide you with knowledge about a new pedal that I think is pretty damn cool.  There, feel better?

Since I started this here blog, it’s been only getting harder to keep up with all the new pedals and pedal companies and all the crazy new gear related things that are perpetually coming out like a hipster in college.  That’s why I like to sacrifice my time for YOU to save YOU the trouble of sifting through all the clones and designs that have been done before to bring attention to only the coolest, tweakiest, most versatile pedals around.  I could be playing with pedals right now, but I want you to be on the forefront of pedal knowledge so I’ll keep typing.

 

The Pedal File - Keeley Pedals

Robert Keeley is one of the pioneers of the boutique pedal game (along with his mod offerings), but only recently has he been making bigger waves for his original designs.  Most of his pedals seem rather straight forward – boosts, fuzzes, a delay here or there, some compressors (although the Compressor Pro is quite an impressive piece of work), etc.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with his line of pedals.  Up til now, they’ve just been pretty standard and not that weird.

You even get two finish options.

 

The Absolute Wurst is the pedal I want to talk about today.  It goes way way beyond the aforementioned items of the mundane and was, perhaps, plucked from the board of a guitar player in a parallel universe where down is 6 and up is purple.  Catch my drift?  The short demo video teaser from Keeley (below) doesn’t really begin to showcase all the features, but judging from the descriptions it seems to me like the Absolute Wurst is going to be absolute tits.  I admire the ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude that Keeley exudes with this pedal.  Like he’s all, ‘Yea, what?  It’s not another compressor or fuzz or whatever.  What’s up, son?  I do what I want!’  Kudos, Mr. Keeley.  You have been awarded an extra point.

 

What really shrink wraps my baloney is the description of the pedal – a random harmony generator (like a Rainbow Machine?) with pitch up and down capabilities; a ‘broken-sounding’ pedal for ‘Experimentalists, Mathematical Atonal Nerds, and Noise-Scape Artists’.  Robert Keeley, did you make this pedal just for me??  I’m still waiting for it to come in the mail…  I also note that Keeley makes reference to the Gonkulator in the description, which if you’re not familiar was yet another ahead-of-its-time DOD pedal that combined distortion with ring modulation into absolute weird tones that everybody was scared to use when it came out.  This caused the pedal to have a short life, only to be sought after now for it’s weirdness in this more enlightened golden age of pedals we live in.  How much overlap does the Absolute Wurst have with the Gonkulator?  Some?  Not much?  A lot?  I don’t know!  Geez, sometimes you can be pushy….but I’m sorry.  Let’s not fight.

Tweakables – taken from Keeley’s wesbite

MODES
Random – Insane Random Harmony Generator – Pretty much unüsable.  Enjoy! ;-)  (I’d use it)
Pitch up – Cräzy Harmony Up.  Air Guitarist on Acid (aka “Chorus”)
Pitch down – The Drünken Bäss Pläyer.  Low synth sounds and other strange weirdness.  Unexpected throbs (that’s what I get when I’m in a room filled with pedals, and it also happens to be the name of the band that the Pope started with some of his top Cardinals to ‘back up’ their favorite altar boys ).

CONTROLS
Upper Left (knob) – Blend your original signal, dry to all the way wet.  All the way SELFIE or PANORAMIC for you FB or IG peeps.
Upper Right (knob) – Speed (in Random Mode)  — Pitch Range for Up and Down Modes.
Lower Left (knob)– Proximity – How close, or the Proximity to original note that the “harmony” is.
Lower Right (knob)– Gain – as in PutOut.  (Otherwise known as your mother)

Bypass – It’s either On or… Off.
Battery Free – Shoe Gazing turns it on and stuff – Power Drain 60mA or greater.
Keeley Engineered – Days of experience and thoughtful design in the foolish and absurd.  (And I thought I was the only one…)
3D Glasses – Not Required, but they do make the pedal sound better.

Perhaps I will get my hands on this guy someday and do a more in depth hands on review/demo.  Until then, check www.keeleypedals.com for more info.

What do you think about The Absolute Wurst?  Is there another pedal you really really want to hear me go on and on and on about?  Leave me a comment, or if you have something to hide, hit me up on my Contact page!

Thanks for reading.

Love,
Nick
The Pedal File

The Pedal File – NAMM 2015 Pedal Picks

The Pedal File - NAMM pedal news

Hello again.  I know it’s only been a day, but I thought about you all night long.  I had to let you know about mooooore pedals.  As you may know, the 2015 NAMM show just ended and many young supple pedals have just been released into the world.  While there are far too many to list, I picked my five favorites and compiled a list for you to eye-fondle.  Read on, these are in no particular order.  Just don’t get your computer keys sticky…

Source Audio – You might already know the Soundblox line of highly tweakable and progammable effects as well as the amazing Hot Hand Controller to control these pedals with a hand sensor.  Pretty cool stuff already.  This year they brought more stuff to NAMM than I can talk about in one post.  The REFLEX expression pedal really stood out for me and is the coolest expression pedal I’ve seen.  You can send three simultaneous standard expression (or CV) signals, MIDI continuous controller messages, as well as six LFO wave shapes.  With the control panel you can program which outputs are active, the depth and direction of the expression signal, and the curve of the tapers (not sure what they mean, but my guess is the shape of the waveform as it goes down to ‘zero’).  You can also assign one of its six LFO wave shapes with expression control over the LFO speed.  Plus, the Reflex can save up to 128 pedal configurations, recallable via the onboard controls or external MIDI program change messages.  There is so much you can do to your other innocent pedals with that…Just try to tell me that’s not titillating.  These guys have been busy!

For more info: www.sourceaudio.net

DOD (Digitech) – DOD is smart because they realize they need to compete with all these silly boutique pedal companies abound.  They’ve released a few new pedals that show they’re paying attention to the market by adding cooler and more colorful graphics as well as going beyond totally cookie-cutter tones.  The pedal that stands out to me is the new Boneshaker, whose circuitry was designed in collaboration with Black Tone Artworks (again showing their awareness of the rise of boutique).  This looks like a standard DOD-sized enclosure, but with a lot of tweaky features for maximum phalangeal stimulation .  The bonecrusher was designed with drop-tuned or extended-scale guitars, baritone guitar, and bass in mind, so the 3 band parametric EQ gives you a lot of low-end versatility with independent low level, low frequency, mid level, mid frequency, high level and high frequency controls.  The most interesting feature is the depth control.  A depth on a distortion pedal?  I know it sounds weird, but it adds low frequency growl.  Do you want your bass to be mean?  Turn that shit up.  I’m sure it can make even your puny little normal scale guitar sound pretty ripping too.  Check out this demo by Pro Guitar Shop.

For more info: www.dod.com

Moog – Everytime I hear about a new Moog product I feel like Jeffrey Dahmer in a morgue cafeteria.  Man how I love flange…I previously stated on this very blog that flangers would make a comeback.  Lo and behold, there were more than a few flangers being shown at NAMM this year.  The new MF Flange offers two types of flange – vocal comb filter and a more traditional flange as well as control over depth, time, feedback, and rate.  You can also control the time knob with an expression pedal.  If you’ve never invested in a Moog product, now is the time.  Their pedals are top quality both in sound (all analog, bucket brigade chips) and design (sturdy like your fat momma), and the Minifooger line offers an affordable Moog tier for even the most deadbeat of poor-ass musicians.  I’ve owned a Moogerfooger for about 12 years.  It’s one of the tweakiest pedals I own and it works just like the day I got it.

For more info: www.moogmusic.com

Catalinbread – These guys hopefully are on your radar by now because they’ve already made some great stuff.  I’ve talked about their delay pedals, but today I’m talking about the new Antichthon Fuzz Tremolo pedal.  This pedal is pretty nuts, being billed as a dynamic fuzz tremolo, a tone-generator that can be controlled with your guitar’s volume knob, and a harmonic fuzz drive.  With controls for volume, gravity, time, and space I can tell you I honestly have no freaking clue what the latter three controls do.  But I think that is the point.  The Antichthon is designed to be that new sound you’ve been searching for.  This pedal is made to be different every time you play, to surprise and inspire you and take you somewhere else outside our normal realm of existence.  That’s pretty out there, like the guy demoing their stuff in the video.  It reminds me a bit of the Fuzz Factory or Fat Fuzz Factory with all it’s gnarly tones, oscillations, and robot alien noises.  Just watch the video to get a better idea.

For more info: www.catalinbread.com

EQD – Is there any introduction needed for Earthquaker Devices?  If you have any hopes of being cool you should at least smile and nod when someone mentions their name.  Their coolness goes beyond any mere trend or gimmick, however.  Their pedals are totally unique and can play as nice or as bad as you want, making rabid fans out of schooled shredders and know-nothing noisemakers alike.  The most eye-catching pedal for me is their Fuzz Master General.  This is based on the Ace Tone Fuzz Master FM-2 Professional fuzz, but of course with EQD’s mods and in their words ‘re-imagineering’, the Fuzz Master General goes well above and beyond what it’s vintage predecessor can do.  You get a full spectrum of dirt from nearly clean to full-on post-Chipotle fart explosions.  A voicing switch allows you to select germanium or silicon clipping for open fuzz or tight fuzz respectively, or an open transistor drive for ring mod octave up type stuff.  That covers more fuzz territory than yo momma in a wet suit.  Oh snap!

For more info: www.earthquakerdevices.com

That’s all for now.  I hope you feel like you’re keeping your head above the ever-rising waters of the pedal world after this article.  More reviews to come!

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

My Case of Why Flangers Rule – Specifically, the DOD FX75-B Flanger

The Pedal File - DOD logoOk.  I’ll admit it, I’m not ashamed.  I love flangers (and all modulation effects for that matter).  I get lost in the whooshing, metallic, stuck in a pipe sound that falls somewhere between chorus/phaser/really short delay.  I get hypnotized, mesmerized, and a little aroused by it (maybe not literally, but definitely figuratively).  I just read a Reverb.com interview with Josh from JHS pedals where they mention how flange is always last on everyone’s mind these days.  Reverb.com even references a Facebook survey they conducted where it was voted the most ‘out-of-date’ effect.  I strongly disagree and would like to clarify:  I think people think flangers are lame because they got overused in a lot of lame music.

The Pedal File - DOD FX75-B FlangerThink about all the crappy music out there with fuzz/distortion/etc.  But you don’t hear anyone claiming the Big Muff to be for losers who are living in the past.  This is because enough players have proven that fuzz can be awesome.  Flange has been deemed guilty by association.  However, Josh does prophetically claim the flanger will make a comeback in the next few years as it is showing up more on recent albums, and therefore people will start looking for (re)’new'(ed) sounds.  I’m here to see that happen because, like the title of this article says, flangers rule.

The way the effect was originally developed is interesting.  It was first discovered by the genius guitar/effects/recording pioneer, Les Paul – though he didn’t use tape, but rather employed phase shifting through acetate disks on variable-speed record players.   Later in the 60’s, flange was an issue encountered when recording long takes onto tape.  As the tape would wind around the reel, it would get weighed down.  This would make the reel turn slower by a few milliseconds, which doesn’t seem like much, but the perceived difference in speed would create the harmonic avalanche that we now know as ‘flange’.

Some smart person (allegedly John Lennon/George Martin – The Beatles’ producer) realized it actually sounded pretty cool, so a technique to recreate this phenomenon was developed.  An archaic method of flanging was achieved by recording two identical takes to two separate tape machines.  The machines would be played back simultaneously.  At some point (the point at which one would want some tasty flange) the engineer would put a finger on the edge or ‘flange’ of one of the reels, causing playback of that tape to be slightly delayed.  This pairing of the normal speed tape with the delayed tape is what produced this unique sound.  Pretty neat, huh?

I’ve mentioned before I’m not a big fan of Eddie Van Halen, but there is something about his guitar tone that really fascinates me.  He used a lot of chorus/flange and was all about crispy textures with a multidimensional tone that makes you feel like you’re a small animal being carried away by a large eagle.  But alas, who can stand to listen to Van Halen (or especially Van Hagar) for that long?  (I hate the 80’s.  That’s when the word ‘rad’ became popular – please stop saying rad, hipsters.  Plus, every musician during the decade seemed to develop some kind of musical retardation, except for maybe The Police.)
The Pedal File - DOD FX75-B

Even though I like the sound of that hideous guitar, it’s hard to get past the cheesiness that was inherent in music during the 80’s – like dipping your ears in a big fondue pot of cheeseburgers.   One thing the 80’s had right though was the sound of the flange (chorus is a runner up and another article topic).

I should point out that not all flangers are equal.  Too many don’t have the kind of control you need (I prefer to have control over the delay time), or they don’t offer any good useable tones (most digital flangers).  There are a few companies like MXR that cater to the EVH fans or like Subdecay, whose flangers are more complex than a modular synth (not really, but they’re pretty intense) and cost well over $100.  But I’m here to remind you in this article that you don’t always have to look at brand new or boutique gear.  Some 80’s and 90’s pedals were well-made and can usually be found for less than $100.  A lot of them aren’t true bypass and whatnot, but if you’re open to the idea of modification or if you don’t care, vintage pedals are a great bet!
The Pedal File - DOD FX75-B
I’ve found a true flanging diamond in the rough in the DOD FX75-b stereo flanger.  It sounds so thick, metallic, and robotic.  Like dipping your guitar in electric molasses, this pedal takes your tone to a sticky gooey territory.  It’s easy to dial in a pretty shimmery chorus, but it also does to-the-max jet pack blast-off flange, as well as some vibe-y, rotary type stuff.  I can’t say enough how great this pedal sounds.  I love it so much, I now have two – just in case.  I plan on getting at least one of them modded to be true bypass (they do generate some noise at some settings) and have even thought about rehousing them both into one enclosure.

Tweakables:
Delay – sets the delay time, which controls the degree of phase shifting. Set it shorter for a chorus-y sound or longer for voluptuous flanging.  Like I said, this knob is really useful for different sounds (on chorus pedals too).
Speed – sets the speed at which the delay time changes – low settings are good for a thick chorus or subtle flange or crank it up for vibe-like throbbing, pulsations, etc.  (The width and regen have to be set around noon or higher for the vibe stuff).
Width – sets the range through which the delay time will vary.  I think of it kind of like a depth knob.  Turned all the way down, there is no sweeping time delay.  Turn it up and the time delay gets introduced to the phase shifting at the sweeping speed that is selected by the speed knob.  Lower settings = time delay sweep through a narrower range.  Higher settings = wider range.
Regen(eration) – adjusts the height of the comb filter peaks by controlling feedback through the delay circuitry.  This feeds the effect back onto itself for more phasing/time delay.  This knob is also what takes you from subtle to totally tripped out alien robot space monster sounds.

Even at low and subtle settings, I love what this pedal does to the guitar.  It excites your playing and makes it feel more alive while thickening the tone up a bit.  At more extreme settings, you can really impart a sense of movement and make people feel sea-sick.  The DOD FX75-B makes it hard to tell sometimes if it is actually chorusing or phasing, but that’s what I love.  It puts a mystical, intangible quality into your riffs.  I implore you to stop over-looking flanger pedals and dare you to put one on your board.  I guarantee if you’re a modulation fan, you’ll enjoy it.  If not, send it to me.

DOD is now owned by Harmon/Digitech who has released a few reissue pedals under the DOD name, but if you want in on the great DOD pedals of yore, your best bet is to check out EBay or Reverb.com.

Check out my band’s new single, ‘I Miss You’, for an example of how I used the DOD FX75-B to achieve 80’s tone for modern rockingness.

As always, let me know what you think!  Please leave me a comment below and tell me how right I am.  Or what your favorite flanger pedal is.

That’s all, thanks for reading!

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File